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Making Excel Work for Your Tribal Community: Next Steps for Building Data Capacity

Making Excel Work for Your Tribal Community: Next Steps for Building Data Capacity
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    Our last one! Next steps to building your data capacity. You've mastered Excel,
    but Excel can't do everything (it can do a lot but it can't do everything), so what are
    the next steps to think about, what you want to do with it, how you want to
    build your data capacity going forward. You probably have a data system with,
    where in a large tribe with a lot of kids, but it's probably one that's been
    invested in substantially and the option to buy another data system for child
    welfare is the place where you have to go. Because if one or two other
    programs -- TANF, of course, comes to mind but Manpower is another one (what is it?
    I don't know what it's called anymore), the employment programs that are federal,
    Department of Labor requirements rule those data systems.
    But, literally, the demographics across all programs remain the same and what
    that does is cause tribes to then say, "Well, we've already invested our money in
    this system. We don't need. ..." I mean those are the kinds of choices that actually
    come up, and when you get to the point you're talking about, it then becomes:
    What kind of reinvestment should we make? How much? Should we just buy the next
    module of the system we already have that applies to child welfare, or do
    we need a whole new system. What are the, what kind of information do we need to
    make those choices that Excel can help us manage? I think Excel does, as
    you walk through this process, it really does teach you a lot about what
    kind of data you need in your program and that can really help you make those
    choices. Right. It gets you ready. You're ready at the front end if
    you have to, if you're looking for a data system, about knowing what you need,
    instead of looking at a system and then figuring out what you need or if it'll
    work for you. So you'll know going into the negotiation with the vendor, a system
    vendor, that you're lacking specific kinds of information (support from Excel)
    and that's what you need from their program. Right. So one of the
    examples of that (we talked about it a little bit earlier within our group) is
    trying to get placement history. Because in an Excel spreadsheet -- unless
    you have column after column -- next placement, next placement,
    next placement -- you know, it's virtually impossible to really get a good count.
    Right, and that speaks to AFCARS so anyone who's thinking about IV-E
    will need to think about a data system because Excel really can't quite do
    that. Right. And there are other case management functions I think, too, that,
    that are a little more robust in a data system. So if you find that that's
    something that you need, then that could be a good sign that you're ready to
    look at something bigger. I think one of the decisions has to be
    how many kids in care do you have, and is it, you know, do like a
    financial analysis -- what is it called? A something analysis -- to see if it's
    feasible for you to have a system compared to what your caseloads look
    like. Well, and from that perspective it seems to me that the
    ICWA, um, a lot of choices can be made around ICWA, because that's the place
    where there's the information is so expansive you could virtually build in
    hundreds of pieces of information that Excel can't handle. I mean it's just
    too broad. It's way too broad to get a solid picture, and if you're, if you
    have a lot of investment in ICWA, you might want to take a look at how
    well Excel supports your needs.
    The other part of it, though, that, I don't know, I really see that this
    might be the place where there's a need to consult with other community or
    tribal programs and cooperate on data system needs. I can see the
    conclusion of learning all of Excel easily come to the place that requires
    collaboration with other community partners. That is a great point, because
    there's a wealth of data in your community that could really inform your
    work. And your children are tied to many other agencies and services
    throughout the community. They're not insulated in the child welfare system.
    Important to think about. But what I would want to tell our people that are watching is that, if you have
    a tribal-state agreement, just review that and make sure that you're protected
    and that it's fair -- you know -- fair for both sides. Some tribes get pass-throughs
    for their IV-E dollars, because the tribe is doing all the case
    management for that IV-E child, but the state carries them on their system so
    that the IV-E dollars, since they're a direct IV-E agency, so some
    tribes get pass-throughs where they could get those dollars back to them. So, I
    don't know, I just really feel protective about that. You know,
    because they may not have the money to buy a big state system like
    like the state has, but then when they negotiate they're not getting the best
    that they could get. You know, not having reports, I think, is ridiculous. You know,
    not getting those reports. And,
    I don't know. I kind of understand why tribes want their own, whether it's
    just a spreadsheet. One of my pet peeves for many, many years has been forms
    collecting information that has no purpose. Every piece of data that you
    enter into a system should have a purpose, and it should be -- it's a person's life,
    generally -- and there should be an absolute clear need for why that piece
    of information is in -- anyone's -- is on the internet, is out there in cyberspace. So
    that's another issue that comes up between tribal needs and the use
    of SACWIS systems. Any screen they look at is forcing them to enter
    information that they have no need for but the state has to have ...
    for their own purposes. And, conversely, they can't add anything so if
    there are other things they want to capture, you can't add that to a state
    SACWIS system. That's true. So either you have to keep that separately, which
    is a real pain, or you, you just you lose it. You lose that information. Yeah, it's the
    whole point we were talking about earlier of having a system that follows
    your business process and not vice-versa, so they're using a
    system that wasn't built for how they do their work. Right.
    So, it's built for how the state does their work, which is going to be very different.
    And we've now come to the end of the series, for now, and we thank you for
    being with us and, and thank all of you with all your knowledge and experiences,
    and we look forward to getting feedback, and remember that you can ask questions.
    Thank you! Thank you so much!
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